And it could just make the difference between rejection or job offer. Last year the recruitment consultancy Reed surveyed 1000 employers and found that 96% would hire on attitude over skills. Now don’t start thinking you get by on charm alone. Employers still want to recruit capable graduates with a broad skills portfolio, but they’re more likely to recruit (or interview) the candidate who displays the right mindset, despite a few gaps in their skills or experience. After all, you can develop skills and gain experience but it’s hard to shake a bad attitude.
Six essential qualities
You may have noticed that many job ads are asking for graduates with ‘the right attitude’ but what does this really mean? Fortunately for job seekers it’s not quite as nebulous as it sounds. Employers from the Reed survey identified six traits or ‘qualities’ they look for in potential applicants: commitment, honesty, trustworthiness, adaptability, accountability and loyalty. Although you may find a few variations on this particular theme, all employers – whether AGR recuiters, SMEs or small start-ups – want the same thing: people they can trust and work with. Moaners need not apply. And check your ego at the door!
If you’ve read anything remotely job or careers related you’ll know the burden of proof falls firmly on your shoulders when it comes to applications. It’s no good hoping the recruiter will infer meaning, so think about the language you use and the evidence you provide.
- Have you been involved in a student society or campaign group? Maybe you started volunteering in your first year and are now a project leader? Use your extra curricular experiences to highlight your commitment.
- Think of ways to demonstrate your adaptability. Have you spent a year abroad or juggled part time work with your degree?
- Be creative in the way you approach competency based questions. You may have been involved with a project/task that failed. Reflect on your contribution and acknowledge your accountability.
- Can you evidence a track record of paid employment? A period of continuous or (recurrent) seasonal employment is one way to emphasise loyalty and trustworthiness.
- Are you able to show a commitment to your own learning and development? Have you taken additional courses to enhance your IT or business skills? Recruiters are impressed by candidates that take responsibility for their personal and professional growth.
There are many ways you can express desirable attributes – they don’t have to be employment related. If you are struggling to find examples, why not ask your wider network of friends, family and peers to think of situations where you’ve demonstrated a mature, ‘can do’ attitude.
‘Generation Y’ applicants attract negative press from some employers, keen to dismiss them as arrogant, selfish and unreliable. Or worse, entitled. I’m not a big fan of lazy stereotyping and just as I refute the notion that today’s graduates are all hyper mobile, ultra creative ‘digital natives’, I have a really big problem with commentators writing off an entire generation as job hopping egotists! But, it’s not me you have to convince. Give yourself the best chance by challenging some of those misperceptions head on. Start now by cultivating a winning attitude:
- Build your resilience. Yes, it’s a tough job market but graduates can and do succeed.
- Adopt a ‘why not’, rather than a ‘why me’ approach.
- Get stuck in and take the initiative. Seize opportunities.
- Be enthusiastic – in applications, in interviews and the workplace.
- Accept responsibility for your successes and failures.
- Don’t play the blame game!
Maxine Ward, Head of Graduate Services at Reed, has commented: “My experience of recruiting indviduals in the early stages of their careers strongly supports the argument that graduates with the right mindset go on to have successful careers“. Despite the best efforts of futurologists and trend forecasters, it’s impossible to accurately predict which jobs – and skills – will be in demand 10 or 15 years from now, but adopt the right attitude at the start of your careeer and success will surely follow.